DAILY DOSE: A long overdue look at the effects of Covid-19 on women in Africa; Is Covid-19 becoming predictable?


Mainstream press has been a bit lacking when it comes to in-depth coverage of the effects of Covid-19 in Africa. It’s almost as if the pandemic skipped over the continent. But of course, it didn’t. The Associated Press is now doing a series looking at the impact of the pandemic on women in Africa. According to the first installment, “Across Africa, widowhood has long befallen great numbers of women — particularly in the continent’s least developed countries where medical facilities are scarce. Many widows are young, having married men decades older. And in some countries, men frequently have more than one wife, leaving several widows behind when they die. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has created an even larger population of widows on the continent, with African men far more likely to die of the virus than women, and it has exacerbated the issues they face. Women such as Mbah say the pandemic has taken more than their husbands: In their widowhood, it’s cost them their extended families, their homes and their futures.” It’s an excellent article and the series has the makings of a powerful read. https://bit.ly/3wcw5d4


Testing, testing, testing. That was the mantra during the early days of the pandemic. For the most part, it still is, especially in China. Even before Covid-19, the idea had deep roots in public health dogma. It was one of the central tenets of dealing with an outbreak. Now, a growing number of voices are calling for deeper analysis and, possibly, reconsideration. Per Reuters, “For many people worldwide, having cotton swabs thrust up their nose or down their throat to test for COVID-19 has become a routine and familiar annoyance. But two years into the pandemic, health officials in some countries are questioning the merits of repeated, mass testing when it comes to containing infections, particularly considering the billions it costs. Chief among them is Denmark, which championed one of the world’s most prolific COVID testing regimes early on. Lawmakers are now demanding a close study of whether that policy was effective.” There is certainly enough data to make a solid assessment. https://reut.rs/3PbpKXR


New Sars-CoV-2 variants are appearing and spreading around the world at a fast and furious clip these days. Two new versions have emerged from South Africa and are quickly becoming dominant strains wherever they appear. But now scientists are beginning to discern patterns in the cycle. Per Nature, “Several studies released in the past week show that the variants — known as BA.4 and BA.5 — are slightly more transmissible than earlier forms of Omicron, and can dodge some of the immune protection conferred by previous infection and vaccination… However, scientists say it is not yet clear whether BA.4 and BA.5 will cause much of a spike in hospitalizations in South Africa or elsewhere. High levels of population immunity — provided by previous waves of Omicron infection and by vaccination — might blunt much of the damage previously associated with new SARS-CoV-2 variants.” It goes without saying that a less virulent and more predictable coronavirus is just what the world needs. https://go.nature.com/3sr4xiW


Defining an ideal trajectory goes a long way toward solving the problems the current crop of flying robots aka autonomous drones face when moving as a pack through confined spaces. Without one, there are just too many opportunities for clumsy touches, crashes, and booms. A recent study published in Science Robotics has taken a step toward solving that problem. According to the authors, “To enable swarm navigation in the wild, we develop miniature but fully autonomous drones with a trajectory planner that can function in a timely and accurate manner based on limited information from onboard sensors… Our approach evolves aerial robotics in three aspects: capability of cluttered environment navigation, extensibility to diverse task requirements, and coordination as a swarm without external facilities.” https://bit.ly/399MDdJ


Wrapping up today’s Daily Dose, we’re taking a look at one of the more amazing things you’ll ever witness in the world – the ability of young children to learn anything and everything exponentially. According to the Psychology Today article, “Although you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to notice that children are amazing learners, actual neuroscientists have confirmed what we have always suspected. Infants’ are born with brains that have an overabundance of what we call synapses, or connections between neurons, which are the most fundamental parts of our brains. These connections make it so that infants’ brains are incredibly flexible to adapt and change based on what they experience in the world and the specific challenges they face. This flexibility is what researchers refer to as plasticity. It’s no coincidence that the word plasticity has ‘plastic’ in it, reminding us of substances that can bend and flex when you need them to.” As infants gain more experience, the bucket-fulls of synapses that they’re born with get pruned down, leaving only the ones they use, sometimes called the “use it or lose it” phenomenon. https://bit.ly/3KUlzMY

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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